This week, Council had before it several agenda items, most important of which was the decision as to what will be built on the Hallmark Lands. From the start of this process, beginning with our 2018 budget discussions in October 2017, I believed that building 1 soccer/multi purpose field and 1 baseball diamond on the property would be the best option for our community. During the last year and half, I have had conversations with residents, members from both sports organizations as well as their respective executives. I have also listened to staff that have provided an abundance of data and information when it comes to enrollment numbers for both organizations as well as usage percentages etc..
While all this information has helped shape, and form my decision, I continued to look at the Town’s Park and Rec Master Plan to inform my ultimate decision. This Master Plan was just updated in 2016 and represents the culmination of an incredible amount of work by staff, working with all our sports organizations. It also represents a considerable amount of tax payer dollars that have gone into its development.
Based on the work of staff and with the input of the sports organization, the Parks and Rec Master Plan identified that the Town needs 1 baseball diamond and 3 soccer/multi-purpose fields… Given that this document is created for the purposes of being the vision moving forward to help guide the Town in how we develop sports and recreation, it is my belief that we should move forward on that basis. That is why I believe that the best interest of the community as whole is to build 1 softball diamond and 1 soccer/multi-purpose field.
After nearly 18 months of discussion and review, in just the past two weeks, Council has heard some other last minute “suggestions” as to how to proceed. For example, some have suggested that we should sell the land and make a “profit”. Well, with greatest respect, as suggestions go, it isn’t a very good one. Selling the land would mean no one would get a sports field, which means that the Town would not only continue to be in a deficit for sports fields but we’d be in an even bigger deficit.
Worse still, we would then be in the position of having to try to find other land to purchase. We all know land in Aurora is at a premium. There is currently no parcel of land available of comparable size. And even if there was one, at what price? If we sell the Hallmark lands, then ostensibly folks are saying that we are fine to remain in a deficit of sports fields and we can wait until we buy more land. But for how long? And what land? At what price? Buying new land – if there was any available – will likely cost most more than the money we will receive for selling the land we already have – land that we purchased for the purposes of building much needed sports fields.
Quite frankly over the past few days I have seen a lot of misinformation floating around without any facts to support it. For example, I have seen outlandish figures like $20 million floating around; that the Town could sell Hallmark for $20 million. Well, that’s simply not true. The fact is the Hallmark property is industrial/employment land, and as our staff have indicated, industrial/employment lands – if lucky – would hit $1 million/acre. As the Hallmark lands are 13 acres well that means the most the Town would get is 13 million and in this market even that’s not likely.. but it’s certainly not $20 million as advertised by some.
Decisions should be based on the best information available, not ill-considered schemes put forward at the last minute. I believe that all our decisions must be based on what is in the best interest of our community and that of the recreational needs of all our organizations and our residents.
Our discussions have so far focused on just two sports- baseball and soccer… what about the other sports in Town… what about football? Rugby? Lacrosse?? I believe we need to look at providing more opportunities for all our organizations and that is why I believe we need to go with 1 baseball and 1 multi purpose field…
As I said at the table this is not about soccer, baseball, football, basketball, swimming, etc… this is about the community as a whole. We need to work with all our community sports organizations to provide the best sport and recreational opportunities for all our residents. And ensure that the decisions we make not only serve the needs of the community of today but the community of tomorrow. This is how we will move past merely making promises and instead towards fulfilling commitments.
Unfortunately, the vote on this matter did not end up the way I would have preferred. Council voted on the first recommendation – that there be two baseball diamonds on the property – and that vote ended in a tie which means that the recommendation was defeated. I put forward a recommendation that we move forward with 1 and 1 – 1 baseball diamond and 1 soccer/multi purpose field. Unfortunately, this motion failed as well with a vote of 5-3, with Councillor Abel voting against both motions; voting against providing two diamonds and voting against providing 1 diamond and one field, thus voting to do nothing.
As the first motion ended in a tie, the motion will come back to Council at our next meeting (June 12) where Council, with all members present, will have the opportunity to vote on the matter again (Councillor Pirri was absent). I am looking forward to Councillor Pirri coming back so that we can move forward with developing these lands and providing the much needed field space for our sports community. I believe regardless of which way we move forward, as either outcome will mean that we will be providing more sports fields, it will be a good day for sports in our Town.